1976: A trip down Lowerhouse Lane

It would be difficult to describe to some of our young players, like Jonny Whitehead and Joe Martin, who are used to rather ropey summers, how great and sustained the weather was in the long, hot summer of 1976. That year saw Concorde make its first commercial flight, although it failed to ever become very profitable. In 1976 America celebrated 200 years of independence and rubbed it in on its former colonial master, when the pound slipped below the 2 dollar mark for the first time in history.  Four attractive women born that year were Reese Witherspoon, Anna Friel, Emma Bunton and Cat Deeley. The singer Paul Robeson, comedian Sid James, and film director Carol Reed, all died in 1976, as did a woman who had killed off many a character, Agatha Christie.  Abba dominated the pop charts. Mama Mia, Fernando and Dancing Queen were all No 1’s. Pussycat sang Mississippi and Brotherhood of Man had save all Your Kisses for Me. I well remember being drunk down The Hop a few times and dancing to The Real Thing’s “You to me are everything.” What don’t you believe? The dancing or the drunkenness!       In the Lancashire League of 1976 Colin Milburn was in his only year as ‘House pro and Mohsin Khan, the first of 5 years, 3 with Tod and 2 with Accy.

MOHSIN KHAN was born in Karachi in 1955. He was a handsome, elegant man which reflected a pleasing and stylish approach to batting. He scored 2709 runs at 37 in his 48 Test appearances. He impressed in Australia when getting back to back Test centuries. 149 in Adelaide followed by 153 in Melbourne. In England he is best known for scoring a double hundred at Lords in 1978. This being the first double century at Headquarters since Kiwi Martin Donnelly in 1949. Mohsin’s cricket career came to an abrupt halt when he married an Indian actress and decided to try his own acting skills in Bollywood.

COLIN MILBURN was born in Burnopfield.Co. Durham in 1941. Those were the days when Durham was a Minor County (when they could only dream about beating Lancashire) and Colin moved to Northants to earn his living. (He also spent a couple of winters in Western Australia.) Milburn stood out as a brilliant hard-hitting batsman and because of his roly-poly shape. (His weight fluctuated between 16 and 18 stone.) In 9 Tests he scored 654 runs at 46. He could never nail down a regular place because when he failed his ultra-attacking style was characterised as reckless. Nevertheless he did produce some gems. These included 94 and 126 not out versus West Indies,83 against Australia at Lords and 139 in Mohsin’s home town Karachi.    On May 23, 1969 Colin Milburn’s world fell in on him. Many car crash injuries heel in time but the loss of an eye isn’t one of them. His comeback attempts to the big-time understandably failed and his final totals were 13000 first class runs and 99 wickets. He was a fine short-leg and took 43 catches in 1964 alone.

In the 1976 Lancashire League ‘House finished second to bottom after flattering with a good start. Only Nelson kept them from the wooden spoon position. Todmorden finished fifth. Mohsin Khan scored 734 runs at 36 and took 39 wickets. (Not bad for a player without a first class victim.) Milburn had 50’s versus Burnley and Rishton but only 428 runs in total at 26. He took only 10 wickets. Like Corrie Jordaan, and even Kirti Azad, Colin divided opinion. Some felt sorry that a basically likeable big-hearted bloke couldn’t cope with Lowerhouse’s (and some others) dodgy pitches. Others deceived by the good start thought his hard-drinking, massive eating lifestyle not conducive with giving his best on the field. If tales of his legendary bingeing are correct, Colin made Roy Ewart’s eating intake look like that of an anorexic model.  The head to heads between Milburn and Khan occurred on 29 May and 14 August. The first game at Centre Vale was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Those who think the weather is better in Yorkshire should note all the other games in Lancashire achieved results!   At Liverpool Rd, Milburn made 39 out of ‘House’s 126-7(Khan 2-36) Tod easily won by 8 wickets. The highlight of their reply a 120 run partnership between Mohsin Khan 52 and ex-Burnley Grammer teacher Ian Smith 66 not out.

The paths of these pros were very divergent. I remember seeing Mohsin Khan spectating at Tod in 1991 when he was a feted actor and renowned ex-pro. The previous year Colin Milburn’s fast lifestyle had caught up on him. He died of a heart-attack aged just 48. His greater epitaph, will not be as a cricketer, where he had significant but short-lived success, but as a human being, who befriended and entertained strangers and mates alike. It would be hard not to think that Colin had his share of inner demons and bitterness about May, 1969 but he didn’t inflict them on anybody else.